About Hitler’s “Micropenis” And Proliferating Homophobic Ideas
Let’s clear something up about this story about Hitler’s penis. We actually don’t know if Hitler had a micropenis or not. What his doctor’s diaries reveal is that Hitler was prescribed hormones and amphetamines to help with sexual activity, but as far as the diaries go, there’s no mention of penile hypospadias. The only evidence for the claim is the claim itself, in the book Hitler’s Last Day: Minute to Minute, which reads:
“Hitler himself is believed to have had two forms of genital abnormality: an undescended testicle and a rare condition called penile Hypospadius [sic] in which the urethra opens on the underside of the penis.”
The problem is: Believed by whom? The authors of this book? Despite the fact that they’re being called “historians,” that’s a claim that’s a little bit less than honest, too. Emma Craigie is a novelist, and it’s not really clear what Jonathan Mayo does for a living other than writing books for what appears to be a Minute by Minute series, also featuring D-Day, the sinking of the Titanic, and JFK’s assassination. Suffice it to say, Craigie and Mayo are not scholars. They sell schlocky non-fiction that isn’t held up to standards of peer-review, or, I don’t know, integrity.
The reason it matters is that, first of all, it’s not the truth. Or, we don’t know that it’s the truth. Craigie and Mayo can’t supply a picture of Hitler’s penis or a documented description of Hitler’s penis by someone who saw it. There’s been speculation about Hitler’s ability to perform sexually for a long time, but Craigie and Mayo went the extra distance to suggest that not only did Hitler have some kind of penile dysfunction, but that he had a small penis with a urethral opening on the side.
All of which is a shot at Hitler’s masculinity. Take the Telegraph article that took off this morning, which opens with “It has long been suspected that Hitler’s conquest of Europe was an attempt to compensate for a lack of potency elsewhere” and goes on to call penile hypospadias “embarrassing” and reprint the lyrics of the children’s rhyme “Hitler’s Got Only One Ball.” A-plus journalism, guys.
The second reason it matters is that this is all part of a long-standing effort in popular culture (which is what Hitler’s Last Day: Minute by Minute is a part of — not serious historical academia, make no mistake) to paint Hitler as effeminate and gay and by doing so, demonize him. Take the History Channel’s feature “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Hitler,” which goes so far as to call him a “mama’s boy” and suggest that he preferred the company of men. It’s presumed from the get-go that these are coded “bad,” that having a close relationship with your mother makes you effeminate, that being gay makes you effeminate, that having a small penis makes you effeminate, that having sexual dysfunction makes you effeminate, that having one testicle makes you effeminate, and that being effeminate makes you less of a man, that feminine means, somehow, evil.
Can we pause for a second and remember that Mohandas Gandhi, too, had a very close relationship with his mother, and that he became abstinent even though he was married? Can we take a second and consider the fact that men who have testicular cancer and have to have their testicles removed are not less masculine for it? That men who have erectile dysfunction or penile hypospadias are not less masculine or bad people? That Oscar Wilde, Harvey Milk, Alan Turing, Marcel Proust, John Maynard Keynes, were all gay? That men who are not masculine are not inherently bad?
Or that of all the men with testicular cancer, men with sexual dysfunction, men with penile hypospadias, abstinent men, and gay men who have ever existed, only one of them has been Adolf Hitler, framer of the Final Solution and perpetrator of an attempted genocide? The thing is that there are easy cultural and moral points to be won by throwing ad hominems at Hitler or insulting him for his body or lifestyle, that by saying Hitler had a “tiny, deformed penis” or that he was a “mama’s boy” or that he “preferred the company of men,” what you’re really saying is “I know Hitler was bad and I don’t like or agree with Hitler.”
But what you’re doing in effect isn’t really all that different from, say, Nazi propaganda denouncing gays as “sexual degenerates” or people with physical disabilities or abnormalities as “unfit.” Remember that the LGBT pink triangle symbol was reclaimed by the gay community from the concentration camps. Associating Hitler with small penises, effeminacy, and homosexuality only breeds the idea that what’s wrong isn’t Hitler — what’s wrong is effeminacy and homosexuality.
Under Hitler’s orders, 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews were killed during the Holocaust by labor, gassing, starvation, and mass shootings. Hitler was evil on the merits of his actions, and there’s no reason, in 2016, to further the kind of hatred and disgust toward male effeminacy and gayness that Hitler himself propagated.